Congressional candidate tours riverfront
STERLING – A Democratic candidate for the 17th Congressional District said she wants to strengthen manufacturing to bring back jobs to the area.
Former East Moline Alderwoman Cheri Bustos visited Sterling on Wednesday afternoon to meet with city leaders and to learn more about their plans for economic development.
Bustos is running against incumbent U.S. Rep. Bobby Schilling, R-Colona.
The stop was part of her ongoing listening tour as she tried to become familiar with the needs of 17th District residents, she said.
“We’re talking about economic development, we’re talking about jobs, manufacturing and what it can be again, and I as much as anything like to listen to folks about what their needs are,” Bustos said.
Sterling City Manager Scott Shumard led Bustos on a tour of some of the buildings the city envisions for reuse as part of its riverfront redevelopment plan.
The project area covers more than 30 acres of former Northwestern Steel and Wire, Lawrence Brothers and National Manufacturing sites. The three once were the titans of Sterling industry.
Shumard has said the city is working with architects who are developing proposals on possible uses for the Lawrence Brothers and National buildings.
The city is also waiting for approval of its remediation action plan, submitted to the state more than a year ago. Shumard hopes it will be approved by the end of the year.
Bustos said she was surprised to see the scale of devastation the city faced when it lost its manufacturing base.
“If you look at the history of rivers and river towns, that’s where commerce originated. It’s where we had our barges going up and down the river,” she said. “I’m based in the Quad Cities, along the Mississippi, we’ve got the Rock River ... we’ve gone through tough times economically and our river towns have been hurt in a big way.”
Bustos said manufacturing is at the foundation of her plan to create jobs in the district. She supports a Democratic plan called “Make it in America.”
“If you look at ‘made in America,’ that’s past tense,” she said. “Make it in America is future tense, and the foundation of that is manufacturing. That was the base of these riverfront towns. How can we make sure that we have tax incentives where jobs can come home again in manufacturing?”
Also taking Wednesday’s tour was Heather Sotelo, executive director of the Greater Sterling Development Corp. She wants to put the space along the Rock River to good use for both Sterling and Rock Falls.
“I envision multiuse green space ... but we can’t just have green space that the city is not going to make any of the money that they’ve invested back on,” Sotelo said.
To generate revenue, Sotelo said she wants to see office buildings, restaurants, a hotel and condominiums along the riverfront. In the meantime, city and economic development officials are working with state and federal agencies to try to secure funding for cleanup.
“The city is not in a position to fund that themselves, and we need to look to other agencies for sources,” she said.
“That’s what we’re working on. Eventually, we’ll have to look to the private sector, to developers and entrepreneurs that want to set up shop down here.”